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Politics has always divided us

Did political ideology make a man shoot and seriously injure a congressman and others practicing on a ballfield?

No.

Did the political views of James Hodgkinson play a role in his motivation? Probably. He had been critical of Republicans and clearly was targeting them.

But that doesn’t mean Democrats are to blame. It means James Hodgkinson is to blame.

People are complex creatures, and how they identify politically is only a small part of their make-up. We might all be better off if we identified more with something that unites us, like being Americans, rather than what divides us.

Hodgkinson is obviously a troubled, evil individual. But let’s not give him the excuse of simply acting on political rhetoric that often crosses a line.

American politics is full of toxic hyperbole and always have been. Today’s political climate is no different than in the past. Political divisions may be more amplified due to social media, but divisions have always been there, and so has the rhetoric that goes along with them.

We forget that politicians and political parties once launched newspapers for the sole reason of criticizing the opposition.

Politics is always about persuasion. It’s “us” versus “them” or “insiders” versus “outsiders.”

Lines have always been drawn and our nation has a history of politics that spews filth across those lines.

Do words often precede violence? Of course. But what we see today is nothing new. I’m not suggesting it’s appropriate or shouldn’t change, but it’s part of our nation’s history.

Many will blame “left-wing liberal hate” for the most recent incident. Likewise, “right-wing hate” gets blamed just as often.

It was just six years ago that a man opened fire on Democrat Gabrielle Giffords.

Our nation is marred by violent acts too numerous to list. Many of them have political roots. The lessons should be clear, but they will likely be ignored.

We will soon move past any brief period of political unity in the wake of the shooting and go back to our partisan ways.

But I’m with Paul Ryan here: “There are many memories from this day we will want to forget, and many images we will not want to see again. But there is one image in particular that this House should keep. And that is a photo I saw of our Democratic colleagues gathered in prayer this morning after hearing the news.”

We are Americans first, then lots of other things, and then Republicans and Democrats. Let’s remember that and learn from our nation’s 241 years of political fighting and violence. We can do better. Blaming “them” in the wake of the most recent violence only further divides us.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at luke.horton@dailyleader.com.